Dear Gentle Readers,
OK, here is a strong language disclaimer: Our hero, Dr. Clete Wong, the potty-mouthed geologist, will be subjected to some stress in today's posting, and it will manifest itself in his language. It's all words you've seen or heard before (he's pretty un-creative there).
This posting is late, but do you care? It's not like you're paying a subscription here...
This passage continues Dr. Wong's recollection of his 3-4 day stint in the Dog Island jail. He has been imprisoned for smuggling contraband onto the Island (a historical pirate hideout, I remind you, making the idea just plain weird...).
But let's get on with it, shall we? Ask yourself right now. What do you think happens next? Got it? Hold that thought, write it on a slip of paper, and look at it when we come to the end of Chapter 22 and see if you came up with the same kooky development that I did.
Thanks for reading.
The story continues...
On the last day of my captivity, we arose and ate a breakfast of porridge and fruit. Just as she was about to leave for north Island to conduct distilling work with Lum and others, Qi came to me holding a nest.
“One of the civets brought this to me this morning.”
“What is it?”
“An abandoned wren nest with four eggs. I think she wanted my permission to eat the eggs.”
“A wild animal needs your permission to be a predator? Isn’t eating eggs a totally natural and instinctual act for a civet?”
“In your world, maybe. In my world, things are different.”
“I am not going to argue anymore. I will be so glad to get out of your topsy-turvy world.”
“They are cold and still. If hold them up to the light you can see they are absolutely lifelessl. They’re dead. There is no doubt in my mind.”
“I am giving them to you.”
“Rotting eggs? What the hell for?”
“In fact, I am doing what I call “marrying you to the eggs.” They are my insurance that you will behave yourself and do nothing today until I get home.”
“You need to keep them warm. When I get home, you should have all four, intact as they are now, as warm as your body. To do that, dressed as you are, you will need to keep them in your hands at all times won’t you? If your hands are occupied, you can do nothing. And I could show up at any time.”
“Another one of your schemes as crazy as fuck, but the hell. Sounds easy enough.”
“But, if you do not have all four, or if they have been cracked or broken or are cold …” she paused and then took my right hand and held it up, “I will slice off your right pinky at the second joint. Can you do that? Are we agreed? Is it clear?”
“I think I will just stay in my hammock all day.”
“It’s a great waste of a day, but in your case, a wise choice. Island tranquility will increase by a thousand-fold, I am sure.”
And with that, she and Faye left me to preserve the wholeness of my body and the spiritual health of the nation through the practice of the virtues of sloth and laziness. So, I took to my hammock to sleep out my sentence as many prisoners, so I’m told, try to do. Before I did that, I decided to create a little insurance of my own. I took those tiny little eggs, packed them tightly in some of that coconut fiber to absorb shock, tied them into a little bundle with some cloth and secured them inside my fundoshi to ride along next to my own “eggs”—my testicles. Thinking that would keep them warm, I thought, AND I would instinctively protect against anything that threatens my groin, as all men do.
I lay there swinging in a hammock under palm trees—looking forward to spending another day as the cliché picture of a tropical vacation brochure. Unfortunately, other people had even bigger ideas for me that day.
My jail term was swiftly coming to an end, and while it was brief, I discovered that even with such a short stint, when a man is relieved of all responsibility for living, your mind goes into weird places. As I lay there rocking gently in the hotness of the Island August morning, I wondered if I now had to start checking the “yes” box on bank loan applications when asked “Have you been convicted of a felony? If yes, please explain.” How hard was it going to be to explain “felony gift-giving?” Or that judge of country I was in held court in a bikini. I suppose the primary result would be higher interest rates and putting up better quality collateral. I would have put this on my next list of questions for Irv—he has not been earning his retainer lately.
While I lazed about quite literally contemplating my navel, I realized I had been joined by some of the Second Princesses—Qin Qin, Eve, Eight, Gwen, and Angel. It would have been the entire younger two-thirds of the class, but Faye was missing.
“Girls? What a surprise. You been keeping up with your review? Test scores up?”
“We’re all up another five points,” said Angel. “No problem there.”
“Glad to hear it. I’ll be back soon. Keep it up. I’ll be back soon from my vacation.”
“Let me do all the talking. Doc-Doc,” said Qin Qin, “as you like to say to me all the time, ‘Cut the bullshit.’ We know why you are here. Fei told us.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” I lied.
“Then come with me to the lab and help me solve a cipher problem I have been working on the last few days.”
“Sorry girl. No can do. I’m staying right here. What are you girls doing?” Eve and Eight were lacing what seemed like sturdy leather cuffs onto my ankles and wrists.
“Just as I thought,” said Qin. “Do you now why the four gates are called ‘The Gateless Gates?’”
“Some Zen allusion, but no, really I don’t.”
“Everything on this Island knows who belongs inside the gates and who doesn’t and they stay on the correct side. So no gates are really needed. Every thing and every body knows—except for one.”
“You’re suggesting me? You think I don’t belong inside?”
“No. In one of our last lessons with you, you talked about personal essays that we have to write to go along with our college applications. You said what’s fashionable right now is to write about that we have done to make the world a better place?”
“Yeah? What about it?”
“You said we should try to ‘throw a bomb’ to overpower the question, to excite the admission officer, who is bored to death reading all of the variations of the same essay. We don’t have many ways to do something big here, but I decided you are ‘bomb-worthy.’”
“I’m just a man on vacation content to do nothing. Girls thank you for these handsome cuffs, but don’t you have work that you should be doing? Qi was saying they needed you for distilling turpentine today.”
“Distilling pine really STINKS. No, we decided, Dr. Wong, we are throwing the bomb. You are a political prisoner being held unjustly, wrongly convicted by a biased judge, and we are liberating you. We will put you in hiding, and we will withhold our labor until justice is served. Won’t that look great on our college essays?”
“I appreciate the sentiment, but look, I’m being released at sundown. OK? There’s no point in doing anything now. I’ll help you all come up with a better project.”
“But they made you pay a massive fine. Is this T-shirt of mine REALLY worth $1,000?”
“Qin. Relax! The money I paid is OK. It just goes into your national trust and your mothers will use it buy some much-needed infrastructure upgrades and repairs that they would not let me otherwise sponsor as a gift, so it’s all good as far as I’m concerned. Maybe they’ll get a medical crew out here. Just leave it be. Your Aunt Qi has threatened violence to me if I leave, so I am going nowhere.”
“I figured you would say something like that. Bind him!”
That was apparently their signal to proceed. Eve pulled my arms behind my back and held my wrists together as Angel secured them together, probably with another leather thong. Eight and Wen made a similar maneuver with my ankles. And Qin Qin took out a gag and put it over my mouth, silencing my protest. For what it was worth, they all told me they were sorry about the rough handling. They were not sorry enough to let me determine my own fate though. I was now their pawn in some generational rebellion game they wanted to play.
I was impressed with the logistical planning. They brought a pole from which I was suspended like a captured animal, riding face down, looking at the dirt as they carried me along. The pole had been placed on yokes distributing my weight on the four porters. I decided not to resist and just conserve my energy. This was looking like some cheap TV action show episode that they had probably watched. They would probably put me somewhere in the wooded area. In true TV protocol, I figured they would leave one guard whom I could trick and then effect my own escape. As we progressed, I thought I was getting ill, but realized it was my internal sensor, my gut telling me that they were taking me to a part of the Island that I dreaded approaching—the shore on the trench boundary. My insides were telling me it was deep there—really, REALLY deep, like as deep as a mountain is tall. It was everything I could do to keep from barfing into my gag.
My greatest fear was realized when they took me off the pole and I found myself perched on the edge of a sea cliff. Down below I could see there was a chain that had been fastened into the rock that disappeared into the foaming waves that hit against the rocky wall below. Eight and Eve made long, graceful, and fearless dives of about 15-20 meters down in the churning water below and waited while Qin Qin explained what would be happening next.
“OK Dr. Wong, there’s this cave that we call Pirate’s Cove which you can only get into by going about four meters under the water following the chain, and then you come back up and you’re in the cave. We can do it in about 50 to 60 seconds so you just need to take a big breath.”
“But I can’t close my mouth with this gag on,” I protested violently. Of course she could not understand me. It just sounded like mumbling, even to myself.
“We’re going to leave you tied up and pull you along so don’t get away. But don’t worry. Just relax and we’ll take care of you. I’m going to push you off and they’ll get you down there. It’s easier than having you navigate the rocks with your hands tied. It’s only about a 15 meter drop to the water from here. I’m told it’s kind of fun to dive. Enjoy!”
I don’t think Qin Qin was old enough to have seen extreme fear or anger in a man’s eyes before. I will tell her later and to make a note of it. I wish they had blindfolded me so that I would not know where I was. But it probably wouldn’t have helped. To me it was like being thrown off a cliff into the Grand Canyon.
For the record, I only swim when I have to. My time in the bay with Lee and later chasing away unwanted Marlin were not terrible since I was focused on a task. THIS was terrifying. My limbs were bound so I could not really move, plus my hands were behind my back. I started to really freak out. Take a deep breath and hold it I kept telling myself. When I hit the water I thought “Damn. I only got a short breath.” I kept telling myself, “Keep the back of your mouth closed.”
Eight and Eve were the right girls for the job. They dived down along with me to take advantage of my downward impetus, not allowing me to surface. They grabbed me and pulled me along towing until the tether between my ankles snagged on something. I slipped from their grasp, and floated away from them. They retrieved me, but the incident made me take a cough which brought a load of seawater into my throat. It hurt to continue to hold my breath and I started to panic since I could not control my own movements. Eight seemed to sense a change in my actions so they hurried to get me to the cave side of the chain and brought me up to the surface. It was pitch black in the cove. I sucked in the air and started to cough. They pulled me up on the floor of the cave and turned me on my side.
I heard one of them talk about having a fresh battery for the lantern, and after a minute or so a camp light came on. It was a remarkably huge cavern we had come to. I grunted and yelled as loudly as I could.
“Should we take off his gag?”
“It should be OK, the reason for it was so that none of the Firsts would hear him.” They removed my gag. I think I laid into them with something like this:
“GODDAMN YOU ALL TO FUCKIN’ HELL! WHAT ARE YOU? OUTTA YER FUCKIN’ MINDS? I NEARLY DROWNED OUT THERE, LET ALONE SHITTIN’ MY PANTS HAD I HAD ANY ON! YOU MOTHER-FUCKIN’ PRETTY LITTLE BASTARDS! WHAT THE FUCKIN’ HELL IS YOUR GAME HERE? WHAT ARE YOU PLAYING AT? GET THESE CUFFS OFFA ME NOW! I DEMAND IT. THERE’S GONNA BE HELL TO PAY …”
“Dr. Wong, you should calm down. You’re OK now,” said Eight.
“CALM DOWN? HOW DARE YOU SAY SUCH A THING TO ME! I AM DEATHLY AFRAID OF VERY DEEP WATER! I DO NOT LIKE BEING SUBMERGED! I HATE HATE HATE IT!”
“He’s pretty steamed,” said Yi. They were talking like I wasn’t even there. “Should we put the gag back on?”
“Qin said he might be like this. I think it would get him madder.”
“Dr. Wong, we’ll be back. Don’t go anyplace. We need to know what the plan is from here.”
“The battery is fresh, but we’re going to turn it off to save it in case you’re in here for a while.”
“DON’T GO ANYPLACE? I’M BOUND AND TIED! WHERE ARE YOU FUCKIN’ GOING NOW? LET MET OUT OF HERE. RELEASE ME AT ONCE. YOUR MOTHERS ARE GOING TO HEAR ABOUT THIS! LEAVE THE LIGHT ON FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! JESUS FUCKIN’ CHRIST!”
“Professor. We just want to say, it’s not personal. I hope you won’t hold this against us too much. Oh and in case you get loose, the caves all go to dead ends, unless you find one we’ve not been able to.”
And with that excuse, they left me bound in a black cave with nothing but my own thoughts. I have been in multi-day cave dives with my spelunker colleagues. Nothing is quite so black as the sensory deprivation you get in a subterranean cave. I tried yelling out names for a long time, but nobody came. I knew the mothers on this Island were all a little crazy. Apparently I had kidded myself about the Seconds as well. An Island full of psycho bitches thoroughly detached from reality and morality. What had I gotten myself into? I should have stuck to the original plan. Avoid contact with the native population. But here I was. The best thing to do was just try to focus on nothing and let my heart rate go down. And then I heard a voice.
© Copyright 2012 by Vincent Way, all rights reserved.
Bonus prize just for you guys, my Alpha Readers. In years past I used to create art based on the upcoming Chinese New Year totem animal. I haven't done it in a while since I've been busy with writing instead, but this this year I had some time, energy, and inspiration. Today's posting was late because I was busy producing handmade bookmarks that I give to my friends, family, and coworkers. Make this JPG part of your wallpaper, or screen saver, or whatever. This is the first year I've owned a large, decent scanner.
If you actually e-mail me your surface mail address, I'll send you one. Family, you'll all get one eventually... just be patient. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy New Year darlings!